January 5, 2009

Comments on grades

Hello everyone-

Since I've received a lot of inquiries regarding final grades, I just thought I'd make a few comments here- Hopefully these comments are still in some of your RSS feeds and you'll see these comments.

I am not going to post the exact cutoffs between A/B/C/D/F- suffice it to say that they are lower than the 90/80/70... cutoffs I posted on the syllabus (that's to your advantage). You have enough information to determine your final score given the information in e-gradebook.

The average grade (~74) and the median grade (~75) fell squarely in the 'C' range, where they should.

I try very hard to be absolutely fair about how grades are determined- with the exception of determining the cutoffs (over which I retain a small amount of discretion), determination of grades is entirely objective and follows the weighting scheme laid out in the syllabus. Indeed somebody in the class got the highest B+ and missed an A- by a fraction of a point; at the same time somebody got the lowest A- and missed getting a B+ by a fraction of a point. This is one of the unavoidable consequences of discretized grading schemes.


October 23, 2008

Mid-Term Alerts

Hello everyone-

I have just filled out the paperwork on mid-term alerts- they will be sent out tonight. Just so you know, I took your average homework grade and your exam grade (including the 'supplemental' exam) and averaged them- if the result was 65 or less, I sent one out. You should have enough information available to you from e-gradebook to determine why you got one (or didn't). Performance in the lab is not included in this score.

I am not convinced that one exam and a few homework grades are a reliable predictor of your ultimate performance in this class, but it is all I have to go on.

While I do not actively encourage people to drop the course, I will remind you that the final drop date is 27 October. You should individually assess your chances of passing the course and act accordingly. I am happy to discuss this with people on a case-by-case basis in my office.


October 7, 2008

vector components

Hello all-

I've posted a short writeup on how/why vector components come out the way they do in the sloping ramp problem.

About e-Gradebook

I've been getting a lot of questions about e-Gradebook recently- I view e-Gradebook as simply and strictly a method to communicate your homework and exam scores to you, as I have them recorded- I do not have e-gradebook do any calculations, mostly because of the lack of flexibility it shows in the face of oddball grading schemes (i.e. dropping low homeworks, diagnostic exams that count as free homeworks, extra credit on exams, etc).

You have enough information, between these scores and the grading scheme set out in the syllabus, to evaluate your own progress.


October 6, 2008

Various links

Lab Schedule:

Help Session Schedule:

October 2, 2008

Physics help sessions

There are help sessions run by grad students available, that I just found out about. The schedule can be found at:


September 23, 2008

Wednesday evening talk

Hi Everyone-

Wednesday evening, a guy named Peter Annin in going to be talking about his book, "The Great Lakes water Wars". It's about the history and politics of Great Lakes waters, which is far more interesting than I make it sound. He's a great speaker and I really encourage you to attend:

September 12, 2008

Problem Solving

As problems in this course proceed from trivial to more complex, I think it's helpful to have a framework in which you approach a problem. Here's an outline that I like, that I think gets at the core of solving problems:

1. Focus the problem- determine what the problem is about
a. DRAW A PICTURE. Pictures and diagrams can be the single most helpful item, not just for you, but of somebody evaluating your work
b. Determine what the problem is about. What sort of approach are you going to take?
c. List your assumptions and approximations, if any
2. Describe the Physics- reduce the problem to a simple, idealized system
a. Draw a much simpler diagram with only the relevant quantities
b. Define a useful, natural coordinate system
c. Determine what you can safely ignore
d. Determine quantitative relationships (i.e. what equation (s) are useful here?)
3. Plan the Solution
a. Determine what the sub-problems are
b. Solve, symbolically, for the target variable.
4. Execute the plan
a. Plug in numbers (note this is the first time any numbers appear in your solution!)
b. Evaluate units for consistency
5. Evaluate the answer
a. Does your answer answer the question asked?
b. Correct # of Significant Digits?
c. Correct units?
d. Does the answer make sense?

(taken, in part, from Young and Freedman, "University Physics").

September 4, 2008

Physics 2111

I forgot to mention another important resource available to you- there's an optional discussion course called Physics 2111- Solving Physics Problems, that parallels this course. It meets Monday at 4:00. It', one credit, Pass/Fail, and usually consists of a discussion of problem solving techniques focused on the topics currently being covered in 2011.

If you can fit it into your schedule, I highly recommend it.

Welcome to the Physics 2011 blogsite

hello all-

I will use this blog site as a central clearing house for course materials, discussion, clarification, and announcements. Please check it regularly, or add it to your RSS feed.

At top right, there is a list of course materials. I'll be posting homework, homework keys, and other related material here. Right now, there's just a syllabus (same as you received on Wednesday) and a lecture schedule. The lecture schedule is a rough outline of the course, and includes reading assignments. It is NOT hard and fast! I will control the pace of the lecture as I see fit to make sure that you get the most out of the lecture.

I encourage all of you to post comments and questions here.If you have a que4stion you think would be useful for everybody to know the answer to but don't want to post on the site, send it to me by email and I'll post it here.